Last year I took John Piper’s advice to think about reading as a fight for one’s life. He recommends in his book Brothers We are not Professionals to make reading a priority for the sake of your soul: “The great pressure on us today is to be productive managers. But the need of the church is for prayerful, spiritual poets. I don’t mean (necessarily) pastors who write poems. I mean pastors who feel the weight and glory of eternal reality even in the midst of a business meeting; who carry in their soul such a sense of God that they provide, by their very presence, a constant life-giving reorientation on the infinite God. For your own soul and for the life of your church, fight for time to feed your soul with rich reading. Almost all the forces in our culture are trivializing. If you want to stay alive to what is great and glorious and beautiful and eternal, you will have to fight for time to look through the eyes of others who were in touch with God.”
Piper helps us to see through our biggest excuse, a lack of time: “We think we don’t have time to read. We despair of reading anything spiritually rich and substantial because life seems to be lived in snatches. One of the most helpful discoveries I have made is how much can be read in disciplined blocks of twenty minutes a day. Suppose that you read slowly, say about 250 words a minute (as I do). This means that in twenty minutes you can read about five thousand words. An average book has about four hundred words to a page. So you could read about twelve-and-a-half pages in twenty minutes. Suppose you discipline yourself to read a certain author or topic twenty minutes a day, six days a week, for a year. That would be 312 times 12.5 pages for a total of 3,900 pages. Assume that an average book is 250 pages long. This means you could read fifteen books like that in one year.”
This past year I practiced this discipline, and although I missed a few days, I was able to read 3 great books in one year at the rate of ten pages a day! The books I have proudly finished are:
- John Calvin, Institutes
- Karl Barth, Romans
- Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students
As Piper concludes: “the point is not to read many books. The point is to stay alive in your soul, to keep the juices flowing, to fan the flame again on Monday and have it burning bright on Saturday night. Brothers, fight for your life. Fight for your mornings! Protect those life-giving hours! But also gather up some of the vanishing moments, venture a new kind of daily discipline, and read the great life-giving books of the centuries in twenty-minute blocks.”
This year, I intend to continue this habit and will keep you posted with some of the treasures I find along the way!